Our four-person team arrived on September 18 in the Madagascar capital of Antanariva. From there we traveled to the Andringitra National Park 800km to the south. Situated here is the famous granite massif of Tsaranoro, and we spent almost a month climbing in this area. The team comprised Harald Berger and Florian Scheimpflug from Austria, and Tomáš Sobotka and I from the Czech Republic. For half the time we were accompanied by the photographer, Herman Erber, and his wife. Our main aim was a new route, which we wanted to achieve in the same style that we would use on our own home sandstone, i.e. ground-up. We first focused on the largest wall in the group, the 800m east face of Tsaranoro Be. A black water stripe falls the whole height of the face; it was a super line, and we immediately started to work on it. After five days of climbing, fixing ropes, jumaring, and drilling, we reached the top, having equipped the 16 pitches with a total of 140 bolts. The majority of the climbing was 7a or more, with the crux pitch at 7c+. The rock in this area is large-grained granite; that although most of the faces offer holds, there is no classic crack climbing.
After a rest we made a redpoint attempt. Climbing all the pitches in one day was exhausting, as the sustained difficulty presented virtually no possibility for rests. We also had to climb as quickly as we could, because the heat made our feet painful in climbing shoes. After 10.5 hours on September 30, Tomas and I made the first redpoint ascent, leaving the second redpoint for Hari and Floe to complete on a later day. We named the climb Short Cut.
We spent rest days climbing other routes and taking photographs or film for a video. Floe and Tomas made an on-sight ascent of Always the Sun (450m, eight pitches, 7c+, 7b+ obl, Farquar-Mayers-Turner-Thomas, 1999, with Steve Mayers the only one to lead the runout crux pitch at the top of the wall) on the north face of Karambony. This was the third ascent, the second having taken place shortly before [see below].
In the meantime Hari and I had started work on Bravo les Filles (500m, 13 pitches, 5.13 A0, Feagin- Hill-Rodden-Pyke, 1999) on Tsaranoro Kely. On the first ascent Lynn Hill had only been able to climb the crux eighth pitch with rest points, but it was finally free-climbed in 2004 by the Spanish Pou brothers at 8b (5.13d). After three days of practice, both Hari and I led the route free in a day for the second and third free ascents.
The rest of our time we spent at Diego Suarez (Atsiranana) in the north of the island. This is a city of beautiful women, beaches, and limestone climbing on the mainland and nearby small islands. We recommend a visit and believe you will enjoy Madagascar as much us we did.
Ondra Benes, Czech Republic